Carnival Corporation is having a rough time. First the Costa Concordia sinks off the coast of Italy largely; it seems, due to maritime incompetence. On February 23, 22 people were robbed at gunpoint while on a Carnival Splendor sponsored shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta. On February 27th, the Concordia’s sister ship, the Costa Allegra experienced a fire and was adrift without power off the coast of Africa. Of course that does not include all of the other “standard” calamities that afflict cruise ships on a regular basis—broken pipes, illness, missing passengers, drug busts and natural deaths. How much more can the cruise industry take—or more realistically, what can we do to help.
As an agent, you certainly can select your preferred suppliers—and you should. But these events are beginning to compound and the media attention (and more importantly the client attention) is beginning to have a negative impact on sales. One of our own TRO Diarists recently wrote that the Concordia sinking was sinking her sales. And while much of the attention is focused on Carnival Corporation and their brands, the impression is across all brands. The consumer will not differentiate between Carnival’s Fantasy or Disney’s Fantasy. They will not know the difference between NCL and Regent Seven Seas. Until you, the agent, do your job offering them solid advice enabling them to make their own decision.
As I have said before, never (let me repeat—NEVER) tell assure them of their safety. It is not your job and quite honestly, you cannot do it. But you can be the voice of reason in the wild-wild west of media consumption.
We all know that these events are few and far between, but to the first-time cruiser, they may appear to be happening all the time—especially when the past month has been filled with death, robbery, and aimlessly floating in the pirate-laden Indian Ocean. I have found the best way to put the topic in perspective is to liken it to everyday occurrences. When was the last time someone in your family was in a car accident? Chance are it was some time ago. But did that prevent you from driving? No, if it was your fault, you may have become a bit more defensive and aware, but you continued. Another good analogy is to point out ho long ago the accident happened and point out that between the RMS Titanic (the last major sinking of a cruise ship) sinking and the Costa Concordia, it has been just shy of 100 years.
Another unfortunate reality of cruising is the false perception that they are hotbeds of illness. Several years ago, the Norwalk-Like viruses were a huge concern. And to anyone ever affected, rightly so. However, these illnesses happen all the time. They happen in schools, homes, restaurants, and particularly hotels. The only difference (and the one that makes them so notable) is that on a ship, it is a relatively contained space. Ask your clients if anyone at home has come down with a stomach virus and then it spread through the family. Chances are they have.
As we all know, an informed client is a good client. We just need to be sure they are informed and not misled. Everyday there are thousands of accidents on the highways, but very few people are personally involved. In terms of cruising, The Cruise Junkie is one of the best sites to document all the accidents at sea. If you have never visited the site, you will be in for an awakening. I share this with my “cautious cruisers” to help them make a better decision.
It is very easy to get caught up in all of the media hype and hysterics, but you also need to know that it is often just that—hype and hysteria. As a professional, your job is to make sure that your client is making their best decision and you are there to guide them along the way.